29. Why should you play dumb like a fox?

"You will get better answers if you are slow to understand.  The trouble is that most of us want to look good.  We find it hard to say, “I don’t know” or “tell me that again.”

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In buying or selling it is not always smart to be too decisive or knowledgeable.  This is one of the classic strategies - it is well used by seasoned sales people.

Sometimes saying you don't know the answer or asking the customer what they think is far better than trying to wing it.    Nobody has all the answers no matter how long they have been selling.

If the customer says "your price is high" simply say "I wonder why?   Do you think the competitor is adding something in or taking something out that is making the price difference?"  Ask to see the lable or the invoice so you can go back to your company and find the answers.

In other words - playing dumb can be smart.

This strategy is used to draw them out with the aim of extracting more information from them.  You are up against a smooth customer when this is used against you.

Did you ever see the television series Columbo?  The detective hero used the pretense of innocence to great effect!   Like Columbo, you will find it a great way for extracting information.   Columbo would always ask one last question!

You will get better answers if you are slow to understand.  The trouble is that most of us want to look good.  We find it hard to say, “I don’t know” or “tell me that again.”

An excellent example of asking for help:   While I was sitting in a sales managers office getting ready to go to lunch with him, his secretary announced that his 11:45 life insurance appointment was here.  I volunteered to leave, but he said it would only take a few minutes and to stay put.
The young insurance man entered the office, handed the sales manager an application and said, “You don’t want to buy any life insurance, do you?”  That is considered the poorest choice of words a sales person could ever use.

The sales manager couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  He sat the insurance man down and for 15 minutes lectured him on how to sell.  He told him how to use features and benefits, family protection, cash build up and education funds.

The sales manager said he was going to buy $250,000 additional coverage and began showing the young insurance man how to fill out the application.  The sales manager handed the insurance salesman the completed application along with a deposit check and said, “Son, I hope you have learned never to use that opening question again?”

As the insurance man was leaving, his signed application and deposit check in hand, he turned to the sales manager and said, “Oh, I never use that line, unless I’m calling on a sales manager.”

Customer surveys are basically useless because people only tell you what you want to hear. Here is a magic question that will reveal the true feelings of your customer: How can I make it better?

Q: How has our service been?

A: It has been fine.

Q: How can we make it better?

By using this additional question you are able to extract the real information you need. With this information you may be able to make changes or improvements before it's too late and you lose the customer to a more creative competitor.


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